Let’s first define what I mean by foreign Google rankings and then we can discuss the question of whether you should try to get rankings for them.
Google is the world’s dominant search provider, not just in the United States but also in most other countries of the world. This is not just because it’s popular in the United States and therefore is popular elsewhere. It’s also because Google localizes itself, so much so that some people don’t even realize it’s a foreign company.
I’ll never forget speaking to an Israeli school child one time and mentioning Google as an American company. He was shocked to find out that it was American since they have R&D offices in that country and they have a localized, Hebrew version of the search engine which automatically comes up when he enters Google.com (you can see it at Google.co.il in case you’re curious).
Similar versions of Google exist in other countries. Try typing Google.jp into your browser bar for example and you’ll see Google Japan, complete with Japanese characters show up. Google.de shows you Google in German and so on. These alternate versions of Google show up automatically when you search from a local computer with a local IP address, making it seem as if Google is a local company.
Different Results for Different Countries
Now, where it gets really interesting is that different countries will show different results depending on what you search for. So for example, if I enter “t-shirts” into Google.com, I get bustedtees.com as the first result. In Google.de, I get a completely different set of results for the same search. My first result is a local German company, shirtinator.de. I had a similar result when using other local Google searches for my keyword.
So Should You Try to Rank in Them?
Now, the question arises, if I were an American t-shirt seller, would I want to try to rank in something like Google.pk (Google Pakistan) for the keyword t-shirt? Maybe, if I happened to offer shipping to Pakistan and expected to sell lots of shirts to that country.
However, realistically, I probably wouldn’t care very much since I don’t expect to sell many t-shirts in Pakistan, even if I’m willing to ship to that country since I imagine Pakistanis would buy from a local place.
When You Do Want to Rank
There are however two times when you do want to rank well in the foreign Google search results. The first one is when you are a global company. So for example, when I enter the search term “Microsoft” into Google.de, Google.pk and Google.jp, I get results dominated by Microsoft, because they’re a global company.
A similar search for another global company, Ford Motor Corporation brings me similar results across the board, again because we’re dealing with a global company.
However, when I search across the board for a company which is big in the United States but not so much in other countries, Caribbean Krust for example (they’re a restaurant chain popular in my native New York City), the company website comes up first in the results for Google.com, but not for Google.jp or Google.de. That’s probably because relatively few people in those countries have ever heard of Caribbean Krust, never mind caring to find their website.
When You Run a Local Company
The other time when you may want to rank in local rankings is when you run a local company. For example, Woolworth’s used to be a large American discount chain. I remember going there as a child with my grandmother. The company closed down around 15-20 years ago however and these days, if you enter Woolworths into Google.com, you get the Wikipedia page talking about the defunct company.
Enter Woolworths into Google.co.uk however and you’ll find the local company of the same name (I’m still not clear if they’re the same company or if they just share the name) which is alive and well in the United Kingdom.
If you have a reason to care about ranking in foreign rankings, then by all means, you should do so. However, if you’re not running a global company or a local company in a foreign country, you are best off just ranking for Google.com.